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When faced with claims against agents and brokers for failing to properly advise their clients, courts have generally found that agents and brokers are not “risk managers” and are not responsible for advising their clients to purchase specific types or amounts of coverage—absent “special circumstances.”

But when such “special circumstances” can be found to exist is far from clearly defined—and can seemingly sneak up on you at a moment’s notice. A cautionary example can be found in the 2010 case of Langwith v. American National General Ins. Co.

Dennis and Ben Langwith, father and son, sued American National General Insurance Co. and American National Property and Casualty Co. (collectively, “American National”), as well as their agent, Janet Fitzgerald, a self-employed captive agent for American National, following a coverage dispute in connection with a car accident.

Dennis and his wife Susan had purchased most of their insurance through Fitzgerald. Among the coverage they had was an Auto policy with limits of $250,000 and an Umbrella policy with a $3,000,000 limit. These policies also covered the Langwiths’ two children, including Ben.

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